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Camilleri's gripping seventh Inspector Montalbano mystery (after 2005's The Smell of the Night) successfully integrates serious political themes with a hero reminiscent of Colin Dexter's beloved Inspector Morse. Frustrated by his department's repressive handling of security for the G8 summit in Genoa, Montalbano seriously considers resigning. His attempt to unwind with a casual swim along the Sicilian seashore fails when he discovers a corpse in the water. The inspector's pursuit of the cause of death intersects with another mystery—the inquiry into a hit-and-run that claimed the life of a young boy who may have been victimized by human traffickers. When Montalbano realizes that he may have inadvertently aided the boy's victimizers, his internal turmoil intensifies. Despite Camilleri's hard look at modern-day slavery and child abuse, he maintains Montalbano's gallows humor, making this far from a run-of-the-mill police procedural. (Aug.)
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We noted in our review of The Smell of the Night (2005) that Camilleri's Salvo Montalbano series was becoming considerably darker, with the Sicilian inspector fighting a losing battle against the melancholy that weighs down so many overburdened European cops, from Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander in Sweden to Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen in Italy. Pervasive corruption has much to do with Montalbano's growing sense of powerlessness, but, in his seventh adventure, the shenanigans of his superiors and the politicians behind them are coupled with the evil underside of the opening of Europe's borders: the buying and selling of immigrant children (to be used either as slave labor, toys for pedophiles, or the source of illegal organ transplants). Montalbano unwittingly abets one such trafficker in human flesh and spends the rest of the novel struggling to set matters right. But setting anything right in this absurdly wrong world is something of an exercise in futility, and Montalbano alternates between despair and steely resolve. Unlike other authors who dramatize both the ugly racism and unfathomable evil that too often accompany an immigrant's journey, Camilleri masterfully mixes tragedy and comedy by showing us Montalbano's laughably human foibles and excesses, from his continuing hunger for a good meal and his bumbling efforts to sustain a romantic relationship through his compassionate if often misguided attempts to deal with his subordinates. Ordinary life goes on, even in the face of extraordinary horror. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Paperback edition.